International markets are key to the future for Gieves & Hawkes

International markets are key to the future for Gieves & Hawkes

Following the acquisition of UK men's wear tailor Gieves & Hawkes in April this year, Hong Kong-based Trinity Ltd today (18 July) outlined its aspirations for the British heritage brand. Petah Marian reports.

The deal, which saw Gieves & Hawkes' China licensee take on responsibility for the entire brand, is worth up to GBP92.5m (US$147.6m) if the company reaches a series of targets over the next 18 years.

Trinity, which is part of the privately held Fung Group, also owns the Cerruti and Kent & Curwen brands, as well as operating luxury men's wear stores under the Trinity banner, says the move will give Gieves & Hawkes access to its buying power as well as reducing overheads.

"In terms of sourcing, the brand was too small to stand on its own, but now it's part of a much bigger organisation," explains Trinity group managing director Sunny Wong.

"We are a very big purchaser of fabric. Now they can piggyback their orders so they can get a much lower cost."

However, more pressing for the brand in the short term is the rebuilding of its senior management team after five directors left in May following the sale.

Gieves & Hawkes and Trinity brand director Ray Clacher says the group is "very close" to appointing a new managing director. This person will then appoint new marketing, finance and design heads, he adds, emphasising that they will be London based, with a "London focus".

While the company is positioned as a British heritage brand, with three Royal Warrants, it has not made a profit in the UK since 2008, admits Clacher. However, it is profitable in China, where turnover is "considerably higher," he adds.

In the UK, Gieves & Hawkes sells from some 14 outlets, where in China, it operates 108 stores, with plans to open a further 17 this year. 

It is clear to the executive team that international markets are going to be the company's growth engine, with the team considering re-entering Japan and the US in coming years. However, they emphasise that turning around the UK operations will be the first priority of the new management.

Clacher believes the company can make money in the UK, but first it needs to "fix the model" in its domestic market.

Of the 14 shops across the UK, Clacher says some are probably "terminal" and will be shuttered, or moved, while the rest may be refurbished.

He adds that the company needs to "make the brand relevant" beyond its core tailoring focus, and that it needs to look at the broader needs of 30+ men.

Ambitions include becoming a "one-stop shopping experience" for men, with an offer that would feature brand extensions like eyewear and fragrance.

However, recently appointed chairman Mark Henderson adds that while these moves will take time - Trinity's backing means the company can "afford to be selective" when choosing its partners.

For a firm looking to develop internationally, maintaining its heritage is a key part of creating an authentic brand experience for a global customer base.

"You can't be credible [internationally] unless you're credible in your home market," says Clacher.

And for Chinese consumers, international renown is a key element of a luxury brand's appeal.

"All luxury brands in China are foreign. Chinese consumers don't want to buy anything that is made in China. Things that are made in China are considered local brands," says Clacher.

"That's why we have to get the domestic market right. They [Chinese consumers] can't come to London and say: 'Where's Gieves & Hawkes?' and [find] we've closed it down," he adds.